The headline quote is from the Grauniad*, the left-wing British newspaper, from an editorial pooh-poohing concerns about the marginalization of Christians in the officially Christian United Kingdom.
They claim then that it would violate their consciences to do or say certain things which society as a whole has determined are moral. This won't do. Conscience cannot provide "a get out of jail free" card, neither metaphorically nor, should it come to that, literally. We all have consciences but there is no guarantee they will lead us to the same conclusions. This fact is literally tragic, as the Greeks knew. Nonetheless, any society has to privilege some ethical viewpoint and some virtues.
In the west we privilege conflicting but broadly liberal values. We no longer privilege the authority of the Bible. So, once we have determined that discrimination against homosexuals violates the principle of equality - and that is the settled position in both law and public opinion now - the fact that some people are compelled by their consciences to disagree does not exempt them from behaving as if it were true. There cannot be a special exemption for mistaken beliefs held on religious grounds when these harm others.
The Christian Institute, an organization that defends the rights of British Christians to live out their faith in an officially Christian nation, responded to the Grauniad:
Institute spokesman Simon Calvert said: "Most UK Christians do not need The Guardian to remind them that their own marginalisation should not be put on a par with the persecution of believers overseas."
"But this does not mean that highlighting such marginalisation is 'hysterical'. Why are Christians the only people the Guardian thinks should keep quiet when they are mistreated?
"The editorial seems to equate 'civilised society' to 'endorsing homosexual relationships'. In so doing it seeks to devalue centuries of orthodox Christian thinking and entirely ignore the fact that Christianity has made arguably the biggest single contribution to the civilised society our country has enjoyed for hundreds of years.
"More than that, they ignore the fact that the principle of religious liberty, Christians being able to live out their faith in the public square, is vital for a truly civilised society....
"After years of being told that Christian morality should not be allowed to have any influence on the law, Christians might be surprised to see The Guardian now admitting that 'any society has to privilege some ethical viewpoint and some virtues'. Clearly, they mean their own secularist viewpoint, not the Christian one, which they assert is 'mistaken'."
So much for pluralism. The Left was all about toleration and pluralism during the Gramscian march through the institutions. Having been tolerated and allowed to rise through the ranks, they begin to crack down on conservatives, to hinder their promotion, or exclude them from admission altogether. We've seen this in academia, we've seen it in church organizations, we've seen it in the entertainment industry. Conservatives in these institutions find themselves having to hide their views to keep their careers.
The Presbyterian Church USA provides an early example. Only 11 years passed between the Auburn Affirmation of 1924, which argued for toleration of heterodox views within the northern denomination, and the 1935 expulsion of J. Gresham Machen from ministry within that denomination. Having gained control of the denomination, the Leftists purged Princeton Theological Seminary in 1929. When conservatives, in response, founded an independent seminary and missions board, in 1934 the Leftists punished and expelled ministers who cooperated with them. In ten years, the Leftists went from saying that the denomination's General Assembly had no authority to require adherence to orthodox Christian doctrine to saying that the General Assembly had the authority to forbid the support of independent, orthodox Christian organizations -- that is, organizations which the Leftists did not control -- under pain of expulsion.
Truth can tolerate the existence of error, but the Leftist worldview, grounded as it is in delusions about reality, requires the totalitarian suppression of truth.
Having purged the cultural institutions and used them to brainwash those members of the public not firmly grounded in the truth, the Left is now purging the general public. You can believe the truth, but you have to behave as if the Left's delusions are true.
Since the Left is finally being honest about the reality that some ethical viewpoint will control society, conservatives should not be shy about working to recapture the culture for the worldview and values that built a peaceful and prosperous civilzation, while working to displace from positions of cultural influence the advocates of destructive doctrines that have led to an explosion of relational breakdown, mental illness, and violence.
Retaking the culture is not about mere partisanship -- "we like our side better than your side." It's about rebuilding a safe and stable society to everyone's benefit.
This is a long-term project, but so was the Left's Gramscian march. It will be difficult, because, as they have for many years, the Left will use their control of institutions to pose as dispassionate experts. Conservative efforts to retake control of our public schools and universities will be characterized as "politicizing" supposedly neutral institutions, and naive folks who are themselves conservative will be led to resist. The fight over AP US History was a preview of coming attractions. I was amazed to see friends who are politically and religiously conservative join in the outcry against the legislative bill to offer an alternative, in response to the Leftist changes to the AP US History curriculum. They believed the line that legislators were politicizing the course, but not the Leftists who were remaking the course to serve their political ends, because the College Board was seen as some neutral authority -- a neutral authority with the power to withhold a desired credential.
As conservative Presbyterians learned in the 1920s and 1930s (and in every decade since then), the Left is not going to allow anyone to opt out, not without paying a heavy price. (Just ask the folks at Kirk of the Hills Church.)
P. S. Some conservative pundits have criticized conservative efforts in the 1980s, like the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition to exert political influence through the Republican Party, while neglecting the importance of cultural institutions. It seems to me that politics was the only earthly lever available, even at that point. The Left had already consolidated control of academia, entertainment, and the Democratic Party.
P. P. S. Just as the Leftist takeover of the mainline Presbyterian denomination is a useful paradigm for understanding the Left's strategy, the conservative retaking of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s can serve as a paradigm for fighting back.
* The Grauniad is the nickname given to the paper by the satirical magazine Private Eye.
MORE about Prof. Machen and the Leftist capture of the PCUSA:
Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Machen led the founding of the OPC after his expulsion from the PCUSA.
"The Necessity of the Christian School," a lecture delivered by Machen to the 1933 convention of the National Union of Christian Schools.
Christianity in Conflict, Machen's own account of the controversies of his career.
MORE: Erick Erickson has a fresh example of the culture war within the church: The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church replaced a pastor against the wishes of the congregation, because the pastor had signed a statement in support of existing denominational policy on marriage.
The church's pastor, Dr. Carole Hulslander, and her husband Douglas used their own funds to help start the church fifteen years ago.
But after Dr. Hulslander signed a "Unity and Integrity" statement calling on the United Methodist Church to maintain its standards of Biblical integrity with regard to marriage, the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church sought to remove her....
Two weeks before Easter, the District Superintendent showed up with a new pastor. When the Chair of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee refused to allow a service that Sunday morning, because the District had violated the church's Book of Church Discipline, the congregation retreated to their fellowship hall to sing and pray. The new pastor came in and began berating one of the members of the congregation. The new pastor demanded keys be handed over. When others intervened to calm the situation, the new pastor told the congregation to 'f*ck off'." The lion that would separate the sheep from their shepherd now paces around the walls of this church.
So it would appear that, although the national denomination has not yet been fully captured by the Left, the regional body has been, and they are seeking to drive out opposition to make it easier to win at the national level. The real estate arrangements in the denomination mean that the hierarchy could deprive the congregation of the church they built with their own funds. Like the historic Episcopal parishes at Truro and Falls Church in northern Virginia, like Church of the Holy Spirit in Tulsa, they will likely have to forfeit that investment and fund another meeting place. (Tulsa's Kirk of the Hills was at least able to ransom their property, but it doesn't sound like the North Georgia Conference will let these people off that easily.) With the Left, it always seems to come around to cursing and coercion, and they're not shy about using the power they have to crush opposition, because they know their fellow-travelers in the mainstream media will find a way to paint them in a sympathetic light.
Some interesting observations about the people of Oklahoma City and the memorial they created and maintain, from NYU media, culture, and communication professor Marita Sturken in her 2007 Duke University Press book Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero.
One of the primary ways that individuals are encouraged to interact at the memorial is through the fence that is now placed on an outside wall at its entrance. This was the same fence where people initially left objects. The designers had envisioned three small sections of fence in the children's area that would encourage a similar activity, arguing that the fence itself was not as important as "what the fence allows to happen." Yet several family members were concerned that this fence, which had been so important to them in those first years, would be lost, even though a few felt it was an "immature" form of memorial. When the memorial was completed, the fence was transported by volunteers to an outside wall, where it is both separate from and part of an entry into the memorial. The material on the fence is only a fraction of the massive inventory of objects that the memorial has acquired and which are part of its archive.
In its incorporation into the memorial design, the fence remains a primary site where people come to leave objects and messages. There are much-considered rules concerning this activity and these objects, which reflect the overall thoughtfulness and intensity of the memorial's intended rituals. Objects that are left on the fence are allowed to stay for a maximum of thirty days. The memorial staff then removes them if they are not related to a particular victim or agency and according to issues of space and durability. The memorial staff will not place something at the fence if someone sends it in; it must be placed there in person. Rules are different for the chairs, where items are left for seventy-two hours after an anniversary ceremony and otherwise removed and discarded after twenty-four hours (though the staff will, on request, move an object then to the fence). This policy was the result of an extended debate among families, survivors, and rescue workers because many survivors and rescuers thought that it would look tacky to have objects left on the chairs.
The Memorial Center, which opened In February 2001, now houses a massive and growing collection of materials in its archive. According to the archivist Jane Thomas, once people realized that their collection was "more than 3,000 teddy bears," they began to send in other materials: photographs, documents, artwork, and personal material from families; trial materials; and documents, such as surveys, from the process of writing the mission statement of the memorial. The archive has six areas of collection: the history of the site; the incident itself, including rescue and recovery; responses to the event, including media coverage; the investigation and trial; spinoffs, such as new regulations and laws that resulted; and memorialization. It now houses over eight hundred thousand pieces, including documents related to the McVeigh and Nichols trials, seventy thousand photographs, newspaper articles, and over one hundred thousand objects, such as cards, letters, quilts, art objects, uniforms, memorial designs, the personal effects of some victims, reporters' notes, shattered glass from the building, and items from the building such as the playhouse from the day care center's play yard....
The memorial design thus encourages many different kinds of responses, encompassing as it does a broad range of spaces, each with particular intent. Visitors are encouraged to be active in responding to the memorial, by leaving objects on the fence or drawing things in the children's area. People often depart from the proscribed codes in interacting with the memorial, for instance, dipping their hands into the water in order to leave handprints on the bronze gates. The memorial is open all the time and is a place that people often wander through at night. It is staffed constantly by volunteers, many of whom are survivors. Many family members and survivors work as docents for the Memorial Center and are frequent visitors to it. It has what is often referred to as a fervent volunteer culture, with seventy-five volunteers working every week.
The memorial is thus integrated into the community of Oklahoma City in complex ways that are about integrating a difficult past into the everyday. This intense community involvement is a factor in the relationship of the memorial to the National Park Service, which is in charge of the rangers and brochures at the site. According to the memorial's executive director, Kari Watkins, the Memorial Foundation restructured its relationship to the NPS in 2005. The NPS, says Watkins. expected the local community to recede as it has at other, similar sites, but the community in Oklahoma City is too invested to fully hand over the site. Thus, as in the design of the memorial, the local community has consistently made clear, both emotionally and financially, its ownership of this memorial site. This incorporation of the memorial into the city has been facilitated by the sense of community and local pride that is a part of the memorial, and its pedagogical mission, one that is fervently expressed and dedicatedly carried out, and that centers in many ways on an embrace of citizenship and civic life.
What follows is my blog entry from the 10th anniversary. My wife and I had visited the memorial a few days before, when we were in town for the Oklahoma Republican Convention. I don't think I can improve upon what was written by those who were there. I've updated links where I could.
Much has been written by those who were in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Rather than try to improve on their work, or even try to meaningfully excerpt it, I'll send you their way. They are all must-reads.
Jan, the Happy Homemaker was picked up by a friend and they went to volunteer at University Hospital. She ended up carrying equipment to the triage site and was overwhelmed by what she saw there.
Don Danz felt the explosion four blocks away, then went with a coworker to look for her dad, who worked in the Murrah Building. Don has a map showing damaged buildings as distant as a mile away.
Mike's Noise has a series of posts: His memories of the day of the bombing, a gallery of links, photos he took in the days and weeks following the bombing, profiles of the perpetrators, and unanswered questions -- what about John Doe No. 2, stories of multiple bombs and multiple explosions, and rumors of advance warning of an attack.
Charles G. Hill links to his reaction to media coverage on the first anniversary of the bombing, and on the 10th anniversary his thoughts on what the perps intended to teach us, and what Oklahoma Citians learned instead about themselves. In a separate entry, Charles links to several other first-person accounts, including this one by Chase McInerney, who was on the scene as a working journalist.
I was there on April 19th. No, thank God, I wasn't a victim, and I wasn't in the buildings when the blast went off. But I was out there soon after. Without risking letting out who I am, let's just say I was out there serving the public. I saw horrible things I never thought I'd see. I saw a person die. And with all the hype out there right now, the image is haunting me again.
I didn't know how much the bombing effected me until the second anniversary. A procession of victims marched through downtown. I watched. I started sweating. My head felt like it was about to explode. I rushed to an alley next to the old library. I threw up in the weeds.
I remember the initial reports, speculating about a natural gas main explosion, then the suggestion that this might be linked to foreign terrorism (remember, it was just two years since the first attack on the World Trade Center), rumors that some Middle Eastern man had been apprehended at the Oklahoma City airport. They found a part of the bomb truck, tracked the VIN back to a rental outlet in Junction City, Kansas, and before long we had sketches of two John Does. It wasn't much longer with John Doe No. 1 was apprehended near Perry, driving a car without a license plate.
I visited the site three weeks later, just after my second nephew was born a few miles away at Baptist Hospital. The building still stood there, agape, awaiting demolition. Teddy bears, flowers, photos, and other tokens of remembrance lined the chain link fence.
Mikki and I visited the memorial on Sunday [in April 2005]. I am not fond of the memorial. I don't think we know how to build memorials any more, and I don't have high hopes for what will be built at Ground Zero in New York. It's too big, too grand, too sleek, too clean. But there are a few things about it, mainly small, simple, untidy things, that touch the heart:
- Among the Field of Chairs, 19 chairs aren't as big as the others.
- The Survivor Tree -- an elm that once stood in the middle of an asphalt parking lot across the street from the blast is now the focal point and the symbol of the memorial. It's the one spot of shade and shelter at the memorial.
- The graffito, spraypainted on the Journal Record building by a rescue worker: "Team 5 / 4-19-95 / We search for the truth. We seek Justice. The Courts Require it. The Victims Cry for it. And GOD Demands it"
- The fence -- it's still there, still hung with memories of lives cut short, beautiful young women, bright-eyed kids, moms and dads. It must have driven the memorial's designer nuts to know that this garden-variety chain link fence and its jumble of sentimental trinkets would continue to stand next to the sleek and stark gates.
Two neighboring churches have built their own small memorials across the street. St. Joseph's Old Cathedral has a statue of Jesus, weeping, facing away from the building and toward a wall with 168 niches. A message from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Oklahoma, Eusebius Beltran, explaining the significance of the statue and the design of the memorial, is posted nearby. First Methodist Church built a small open-air chapel shortly after the bombing as a place for prayer and worship for those visiting the site. These two simple shrines far better capture the Spirit that drew rescue workers and volunteers from across the state and the nation to comfort the dying, tend the wounded, search for the lost, clear away the debris, and begin to put a city back together again.
Reporter Jayna Davis has written and updated a book on her investigation of the identity of "John Doe No. 2" and the possible connection to hostile regimes and factions in the Middle East: The Third Terrorist: The Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing. Here is a 2011 article by Davis about the declassified 2005 FBI interrogation of convicted bomber Terry
During the interview, the convicted bomber unleashed a startling admission: John Doe 2 exists. The FBI report states, "Nichols advised that John Doe 2's name had not been mentioned during the (FBI) investigation, and therefore, he feared for his life and his family's well-being should it become public."
The late McCurtain County Gazette journalist J. D. Cash pursued the bombers' connections to the white-supremacist movement. Cash and his work were profiled by Darcy O'Brien in The New Yorker in 1997. On Cash's death in 2007, Mike McCarville wrote:
His writings about the Oklahoma City bombing first gained attention because they included interviews with an undercover IRS operative who maintained that she had warned the government of the plans of right-wing extremists to attack federal buildings in 1995. Cash went on to delve deeper and deeper into Tim McVeigh and others who had lived or visited Elohim City, the religious compound in eastern Oklahoma. Using the Freedom of Information Act, he was able to make a case that the FBI had McVeigh and other members of a gang of Midwest Bank robbers under investigation prior to the 1995 bombing of the Murrah building.
streiff, a contributing writer at RedState, has written a detailed and stirring account of the days leading up to and following Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.
In the final installment, he cites the surrender as one of three "critical points in American history: points after Independence was a done deal but where the very fate of the Republic teetered on razor's edge." Washington's handling of the Newburgh Conspiracy at the end of the Revolutionary War and his willingness to step aside after two terms as president were the other two he mentioned.
One of Lee's aides proposed that soldiers steal away in small groups, return to their states and report for further duty, effectively calling for a protracted guerrilla war. Lee immediately shut down the idea. Streiff quotes John Daniel Davidson, writing at The Federalist:
Lee gently rebuked Alexander, reminding him, "We must consider its effect on the country as a whole." The men, he said, "would be without rations and under no control of officers. They would be compelled to rob and steal in order to live. They would become mere bands of marauders, and the enemy's cavalry would pursue them and overrun many sections that may never have occasion to visit. We would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from." Alexander would later write: "I had not a single word to say in reply. He had answered my suggestion from a plane so far above it that I was ashamed of having made it."
Grant handled the surrender with leniency and respect for the troops who had valiantly fought on the other side. He allowed the officers to retain their sidearms and all the troops to keep their horses and mules; Lee had told him that the animals were owned by their riders and would be needed for planting crops to feed their families. Grant stifled loud celebrations by his troops: "The war is over; the rebels are our countrymen again, and the best sight of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations." Three days later, General Joshua Chamberlain formally received the arms and flags of the Confederates, and he had his troops offer a salute of honor. "These enemies in many a bloody battle ended the war not with the shame on one side and exultation on the other but with a soldier's 'mutual salutation and farewell.'"
Had the defeated and victorious generals not acted magnanimously, the country might have suffered "a prolonged and bloody insurgency in the South that would have caused a permanent rift in the nation."
We often speak of scientific 'miracles' - forgetting that these are not miraculous happenings at all, but rather the product of hard work, long hours and disciplined intelligence.
The men and Women of the Apollo XIII mission operations team performed such a miracle, transforming potential tragedy into one of the most dramatic rescues of all time. Years of intense preparation made this rescue possible. The skill coordination and performance under pressure of the mission operations team made it happen. Three brave astronauts are alive and on Earth because of their dedication and because at the critical moments the people of that team were wise enough and self-possessed enough to make the right decisions. Their extraordinary feat is a tribute to man's ingenuity, to his resourcefulness and to his courage.-- President Richard Nixon, presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the Apollo 13 Mission Operations Team, April 18, 1970.
Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently. God, in His ordinary providence, makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at His pleasure.
Today is the 45th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 13, the moon mission waylaid by an explosion that miraculously made it safely back to Earth through a series of life-threatening conditions.
Tonight, astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise and flight directors Glynn Lunney, Gene Kranz, and Gerry Griffin will mark the event at a $1,000 a plate gala at the Kennedy Space Center, benefiting the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
Five years ago, Universe Today published a series of articles by Nancy Atkinson on "13 Things that Saved Apollo 13," a list devised by Jerry Woodfill, who was a young engineer working in the Mission Evaluation Room during Apollo 13, and who has spent decades studying the twists and turns of the mission by combing through transcripts, reports, and other documents and interviewing the astronauts and his fellow engineers. If you've read Jim Lovell's book Lost Moon or seen Ron Howard's movie Apollo 13
The list includes coincidences (the point in the mission when the explosion occurred, astronaut Charlie Duke's measles), inexplicable malfunctions (the hatch between the command module and lunar module that wouldn't close, the unexplained shutdown of the Saturn V center engine before its pogo-ing vibrations would have jackhammered the rocket to pieces), examples of ingenuity and preparedness (the technique to navigate by Earth's terminator, the use of duct tape to improvise a filter to scrub CO2 out of the spacecraft's air), decisions made long before (choosing Lunar Orbit Rendezvous), and even the scenario presented by a Hollywood movie of the time. Choices that at the time seemed marginally better than plausible alternatives appear in hindsight as the only options that would have saved the crew.
Universe Today is now running a second series drawn from Woodfill's research, "13 MORE Things That Saved Apollo 13," leading off with the fact that two teams of flight controllers and two experienced flight directors -- Gene Kranz and Glynn Lunney -- were on duty at the time of the disaster.
The Apollo 13 article is an example of Wikipedia at its best, with links to many source documents, video, and other resources.
You can see Apollo 13's Command Module Odyssey on display at the Cosmophere in Hutchinson, Kansas, part of an astonishing collection of artifacts from the American and Soviet space programs, and just a four-hour drive from Tulsa.
UPDATE: Jamison Faught reports on Twitter that on the first ballot Brogdon finished first but short of a majority, and incumbent chairman Weston was eliminated -- Brogdon 47.45, Pollard 29.11, Weston 23.43. Brogdon won the second ballot over Pollard, 53.35% to 46.65%. Estela Hernandez was elected vice chairman with 58.12% of the vote.
As with the Tulsa County Republican Convention last month, a very busy period in my personal and professional life makes it impossible for me to attend the 2015 Oklahoma State Republican Convention tomorrow. If I were there, I'd vote for former State Sen. Randy Brogdon for party chairman.
This probably won't surprise anyone. I endorsed and knocked doors for Brogdon for Governor in 2010 and to fill Tom Coburn's Senate seat in 2014. Randy Brogdon is a man of principle who served and led faithfully on the Owasso City Council and the Oklahoma State Senate. As I wrote in 2014:
Brogdon, a small-business owner in the heat and air industry, was elected in 1998 to the Owasso City Council and was elected as Mayor by his fellow city councilors. In 2002 he was elected to the State Senate, serving two terms and earning the highest ratings possible from conservative groups.
Brogdon was the leading advocate for the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) initiative, a popular measure that was scuttled by special interest litigation. He led the effort to pull Oklahoma out of the effort to build the eminent domain nightmare known as the NAFTA Superhighway through the state. A champion for privacy rights, he led Oklahoma to opt out of the Real ID Act. In 2010, he authored SQ 756, the Oklahoma Healthcare Freedom Amendment. He was one of the few Republican elected officials with the courage to stand consistently with grassroots Tulsa County Republicans against ill-considered boondoggles funded by sales tax increases.
Two other candidates are actively campaigning for the job: David Weston, the incumbent, and Pam Pollard, head of the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women.
Pollard is an energetic leader, a hard worker, a networker, and an organizer. I've enjoyed working with her over the years, and there's no question she would be up to the nuts-and-bolts aspects of the chairman's job. But there's another aspect to the job, which I'll address a bit later, where I think Brogdon has the edge in the current climate.
I appreciated Weston's lobbying efforts against the disastrous National Popular Vote bill, although in the aftermath, I wish he'd sought to obtain commitments from Republican candidates to block the proposal in the future.
I was not pleased to hear of Weston's efforts to lobby for a delay in Oklahoma's presidential primary. In 2012, our early primary date brought all the candidates to Oklahoma. My kids got to hear Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum speak in person at ORU. Although the early date meant that Oklahoma's delegates were allocated proportionately -- and so Santorum's win here didn't translate into an overwhelming number of delegates -- the win gave a boost to a candidate in tune with the values and priorities of Oklahoma Republicans. That helped him stay in the race and keep his issues in the spotlight -- including the need for a strong American presence in the world and the need to .
A later primary date would make Oklahoma winner-take-all, making our state a slightly bigger prize in delegate count (although still awfully small), but it mean that you and I would get to pick from whichever establishment types were left after open primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina filtered out all the grassroots conservatives.
Weston's case for a later primary date is arguable, but his advocacy riled activists because he spoke on behalf of the state party without consulting the State Committee. The committee, which serves as the party's governing body between conventions, consists of the Chairman and Vice Chairmen and two State Committee members from each county, plus statewide, congressional, and legislative elected officials ex officio. The group is supposed to meet at least once a quarter.
On the National Popular Vote issue, Weston had a strong mandate to speak out on behalf of the party -- clear party platform planks and a unanimous RNC vote to condemn the idea. That mandate was missing from the primary date debate. Although several State Committee meetings had been held recently, Weston never sought the committee's authorization to endorse the later primary date on the party's behalf.
Both Pam Pollard and Randy Brogdon spoke out against the early primary date, with Brogdon addressing the House Elections Committee considering the bill. Brogdon pledges, if elected, to to seek the State Committee's endorsement before speaking out on such issues.
When Brogdon called me a few months ago to talk about the race, I was a bit underwhelmed. His focus was on party building and organization and the need to reach out to groups that aren't typically considered Republican, which is all well and good. I didn't hear any talk from him (or the other two candidates) about my priority for our party leaders: To hold elected officials accountable for carrying out the party's principles and policies and to protect the Republican brand. In Oklahoma, the biggest obstacle to the implementation of Republican policies comes from Republicans who wear the name but don't understand or adhere to the principles the party professes. A party chairman can serve as the grassroots' lobbyist to counteract the presence of special-interest spokesmen at the State Capitol. Although it wasn't a role he identified as a priority, I think Brogdon's experience and temperament would make him the most likely of the three candidates to speak out when elected Republicans betray the principles and policies they ran on.
Because of his years of service in elected office, Randy Brogdon will be sympathetic to the pressures weighing on elected officials. At the same time, he has a record of accomplishment as an elected official that shows you don't have to compromise your principles to get things done. He's in a position to refute the lame excuses of officials who always want to put off courageous decisions until after the next election.
At the County Convention, the race was so close that my unavoidable absence cost my preferred candidate the election. I hope that won't be the case on Saturday.
MORE: Muskogee Politico Jamison Faught has detailed surveys from each of the announced candidates for chairman (Randy Brogdon, Pam Pollard, David Weston) and vice chairman (Estela Hernandez, John T. Lewis, ). And he asked some follow-up questions of the candidates for chairman.
STILL MORE: Dewey Bartlett Jr, who endorsed liberal Democrat Kathy Taylor for re-election as Tulsa's mayor, thinks Dave Weston should be re-elected as OKGOP chairman.
Bob Wills' passing in 1975 happened just as the music he made famous was enjoying a resurgence of interest, a comeback that might be traceable to Merle Haggard's decision to share his superstar spotlight with the music that shaped him. In 1970, Haggard invited six members of the Texas Playboys -- Eldon Shamblin, Tiny Moore, Johnnie Lee Wills, Alex Brashear, Joe Holley, and Johnny Gimble -- to record with his band on A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World: My Salute to Bob Wills. Haggard gathered Bob and even more Texas Playboys to record at his housewarming party in 1971. Although that album was never released (although it was included many years later in the Bear Family box set), it set the stage for For the Last Time, the final time the Texas Playboys would record with Bob Wills.
With audiences rediscovering the joy of the music of the Texas Playboys, and with the veteran musicians having rediscovered the joy of playing music together, it was natural for them to want to continue on, and, with the blessing of Bob's widow, Betty, they did, as the Original Texas Playboys, under the leadership of Leon McAuliffe. The band appeared on one of the first episodes of Austin City Limits, and they continued to perform together under the Original Texas Playboys name until piano-pounder Al Stricklin passed away in 1986.
They recorded a few albums, but none of them have been issued on CD. Someone has digitized the first two -- Bob Wills' Original Texas Playboys Today (1977) and Live and Kickin' (1978). Singer Leon Rausch's discography covers most of the post-Bob Wills recording of the Original Texas Playboys and other collections of Bob's sidemen.
Someone has also digitized another vinyl disc featuring a Texas Playboys legend: Eldon Shamblin: Guitar Genius (1982). Western Swing historian Buddy McPeters has called Eldon Shamblin the "greatest Texas Playboy" -- he was not only a guitarist, with a unique style, but an arranger who made the Texas Playboys swing. For many years he also served as the band's business manager. Eldon's playing is usually in the background; this album gives it the spotlight it deserves. The album begins with Eldon saying a few words about his career and the development of his style. Praguefrank's discography of Eldon Shamblin reports that he was joined on the album by John Cummins and Bob Kiser on bass, Jay Hearn on drums, and Gary Hutton and Curly Lewis on fiddle.
On May 23, 1978, Michael Mendelson interviewed Texas Playboys mandolinist Tiny Moore, who talked about his growing up, split between the farmland of central Texas and the oil refinery town of Port Arthur, early music efforts, his stint in the Army Air Corps, his impromptu audition for Bob Wills at a pig stand, marrying Dean McKinney and settling down in Sacramento, the Billy Jack Wills band, and his "civilian" life as a TV kiddie show host, music teacher, and music store owner. Mendelson boiled the interview down into this profile of Tiny Moore for Frets magazine. (Found via the texasplayboys.net discussion forum.) There's an intriguing teaser at the end of that article -- elsewhere in the issue, David Grisman takes an "in-depth look" at Tiny Moore's style of playing mandolin.
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.
Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel.
And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.
-- Acts 9:32-34
Lod (לוד): Population: 71,060. Election results: Likud 32.77%, Joint Arab List 16.15%, Israel Our Home 10.30%. By group: Nationalist parties 62%, Arab parties 17%, Leftist parties 13%, religious parties 7%.
Beersheba (בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע): Population: 197,270. Election results: Likud 37.69%, Zionist Camp 12.24%, Israel Our Home 12.06%. By group: Nationalist parties 70%, Leftist parties 21%, religious parties 7%, Arab parties 1%.
It doesn't seem to matter how early we start to plan and pack, we can't seem to avoid the last-minute scramble before a trip. The morning of our March 7 departure included a 2 a.m. run to Walgreens for a few items, a visit to the ATM and the post office (to mail some get-well cards), and an unsuccessful attempt at getting the accumulated grit and grime of winter washed off of the car. (March 6 was the first really nice day in weeks, and it seemed like every car wash ran out of soap that day.) I got about a one-hour nap before I got up, got myself ready, then got everyone else up. My mom and dad came by, bringing Whataburger sausage biscuits and coffee and both of their vehicles (the Avalon and the Santamobile) to help get the five of us and all of our stuff to the airport. We weighed bags and rearranged and jettisoned. I shooed everyone out the door and ran through my checklist for closing up the house.
By now, the loyal readers that have bothered to hang around will not be surprised by long gaps between blog entries. Work and family obligations have been preempting time and energy to write for publication here or anywhere
The most recent silence was about family, but much more joy than obligation. The whole family spent the last two weeks on a physically and intellectually demanding study tour of Israel, under the auspices of Augustine Christian Academy and the Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation. The itinerary took us from Dan even unto Beersheba, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, from the lowest point on Earth to the foothills of still snowy Mount Hermon. We saw the country at its greenest, with even the desert in bloom, at the tail end of a wet winter and spring, before the withering heat of summer sets in.
The people and places of the Bible were certainly at the center of the tour, but we covered nearly the entire span of recorded human history, from city gates that Abraham likely passed through over 4000 years ago to the present day. I don't know of any spot on the planet quite like Israel, where nearly every great world empire has left its mark -- Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Mecca, the Umayyids, the Abbasids, the Crusaders, the Mamluks, the Ottomans, Napoleon, the British. (That's us below, in front of a Roman aqueduct near the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea Maritima.)
Over the course of the tour, I managed to fill a small Moleskine notebook with tiny writing, and the five of us took tens of thousands of photos. Although I'm back at work and back to the old grind, I want to spend some time sorting through the notes and images and memories while they're still fresh. So don't expect to see political posts any time soon.
Polls in Israel closed about two hours ago, 3 p.m. Tulsa time. Actual vote counts are trickling in, but, as in the United States, the focus is on exit polling, which shows the current leading party, Likud, and their left-wing rivals, Zionist Union (which includes the Labor Party), each winning 27 seats in the new Knesset.
You can find the current semi-official tally on the Central Election Commission website. If I read it correctly (it's in Hebrew), it shows 285 out of 47,679 polling stations reporting, and Zionist Union with a narrow lead. (UPDATE: I read it incorrectly. The number of polling stations is closer to 42,000.) You can also find, at the top of the page, links to results by city and results by polling station. There are also downloadable CSV files, but they seem to use an encoding other than Unicode.
To help you decode that site, they have a list of the competing parties, in English and showing the Hebrew abbreviation used as their ballot designations.
Just as in the US, the exit pollsters were way off. Likud has a comfortable lead over Zionist Union, and it seems clear that Netanyahu will be able to form a new majority with breakaway conservative parties Kulanu, Beit Yehudi, and Yisrael Beitenu, and religious parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.
Jerusalem Post has an English language live blog of the election and the formation of a new government. There's also this geographical analysis of the result -- which parties were strongest in which cities and regions.
Ted Belman of Israpundit has a good overview of Israel's political evolution since Bibi's return to power in 2009: "Netanyahu was the author of both his near defeat and his great victory." In a nutshell, Netanyahu froze construction of new neighborhoods and towns around Jerusalem and in the West Bank under pressure from President Obama, alienating his own electoral base. He repeated the mistake and as a bonus mistake released 100 Palestinian terrorists at US prompting. Conservative Israelis began to look to other parties for leadership, and Israel's proportional representation system is favorable to forming new parties.
Making matters worse, Netanyahu's neighborhood construction freeze exacerbated the housing crisis -- too few homes and too expensive, particularly in and around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where the jobs are.